A Housing Works program helped a Redmond woman in a situation she never thought she’d be in.
Trina Milbrat, a single mother of five, including a son with special needs, heard about the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, shortly after moving to the area in 2016. The program was established in 1990 by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, and picked up in 1993 by Redmond-based Housing Works.
“Doing this on my own without help from the father, has been a huge challenge,” Milbrat said. “I was at a point where I was not going to be able to work full-time and provide care for my son,” Milbrat said.
The voluntary program is intended to reduce or eliminate the need for public assistance. Andrew Hall, program manager with Housing Works, said around 100 families use the program at any one time, with 722 families participating over the last five years.
“It’s an effort to reduce or eliminate the need for public assistance,” Hall said.
The Housing Works program is funded this year with $148,564 from HUD, a 6.25% increase over last year. Hall said that comes after many years of no increase.
While Housing Works is always looking to add capacity and services to the program, Hall said he had yet to identify any specific changes that will be made possible with the extra funding.
The Self-Sufficiency Program is available to families receiving assistance through Housing Choice vouchers, not those living in Housing Works properties like Redmond’s Cook Crossing.
“Our main focus is on employment,” he said. “That could be people with no work skills, so we connect them with WorkSource or other partners to become work ready.”
Milbrat was pleased to be approved for the Housing Choice program, but even more overjoyed to hear about the Self-Sufficiency Program from Hall.
“I was so excited, just the possibility of one day being able to own my own home and be financially stable with my children was a huge goal of mine,” she said. “Another big goal was to be self-sufficient and not have to be on public assistance.”
Hall and the one other Housing Works Self-Sufficiency Program employee, also “coach” clients in finding education, including pursuing general equivalency high school diplomas, as well as associate or bachelor’s college degrees.
“People in our program have graduated with master’s degrees,” Hall said. “If they want to get into an apprenticeship program, we try to connect them.”
In addition, Housing Works assists clients with financial skills like budgeting and creating goals.
Of the 1,200 people in Housing Works voucher system, about 60 percent are elderly or disabled, Hall said. Of the work-eligible clients, about a quarter take part in the Self-Sufficiency Program.
Hall discussed goals with Milbrat and they worked on getting her a stable job and setting up a 401(k), when she previously had no money set aside for retirement, she said. She was able to get a job with Summit BMC, and is now working on reducing her debt.
“He was supportive and helpful, I put in so much effort and I was successful,” Milbrat said. “I would highly recommend this program to anyone who would like to obtain home ownership.”
Reasons vary for why people don’t take part in the Self-Sufficiency Program, Hall said.
“Some people have their own plan in place, other folks just don’t have the time,” he said. “They might be a single mom with kids, and it’s challenging to fit another plan in their life.”
Hall works with parents of young children to set up childcare. Another reason he hears is that people don’t have a valid driver’s license, which he can also work on.
“Everybody’s different, it’s just, how can I help you to achieve what you want to achieve?’ ” he said.
But for those who are able to take part in the program, Hall points out its focus on goals and HUD’s escrow savings account.
While people earning more money receive less in rental assistance, HUD places an amount equal to the extra rent they are paying into an account, which the client can access when he or she graduates the Self-Sufficiency Program.
The average client takes about three years to graduate the program, Hall said.